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Marley Mcelree of the Sigonella Jaguars tries to get the ball over Vicenza’s Gabriela Sanchez during Saturday's game at Vicenza High School. The Cougars won in straight games, 25-12, 25-12, 25-10.
Marley Mcelree of the Sigonella Jaguars tries to get the ball over Vicenza’s Gabriela Sanchez during Saturday's game at Vicenza High School. The Cougars won in straight games, 25-12, 25-12, 25-10. (Norman Llamas/Stars and Stripes)

VICENZA, Italy – There was certainly no shortage of energy at the Vicenza High School gym Saturday when the host girls’ volleyball team took on the Sigonella Jaguars.

Both spectators and players were excited to be back in the gym playing volleyball, and according to coaches, that’s the way it was as well Friday night, when the teams faced each other for the first time in almost two years thanks to coronavirus protocols.

Shalom DeJardin of Vicenza attempts to spike the ball over Sigonella Jaguars' Fabiola Mercado-Rodriguez during Saturday's game at Vicenza High School. The Cougars won in straight games, 25-12, 25-12, 25-10.
Shalom DeJardin of Vicenza attempts to spike the ball over Sigonella Jaguars' Fabiola Mercado-Rodriguez during Saturday's game at Vicenza High School. The Cougars won in straight games, 25-12, 25-12, 25-10. (Norman Llamas/Stars and Stripes)

The teams were evenly matched Friday, going the full five games to determine a winner.

Saturday, the Cougars began the match strongly, just like they did Friday. However, this time, they kept the pressure and never let the Jaguars get into any rhythm, which proved to be a winning formula.

Sigonella's Angela Mykayla Abad tries to get the ball over Vicenza's Julia Ridgely during Saturday's game at Vicenza High School. Vicenza won in straight games 25-12, 25-12, 25-10.
Sigonella's Angela Mykayla Abad tries to get the ball over Vicenza's Julia Ridgely during Saturday's game at Vicenza High School. Vicenza won in straight games 25-12, 25-12, 25-10. (Norman Llamas/Stars and Stripes)

Behind strong serves from Fiona Hein, Julia Ridgely and Giana Barea, the Cougars won 25-12, 25-12, 25-10.

“Today, it was very different than how we played yesterday,” Vicenza coach John Kohut said. “We knew we could play better than yesterday so, our plan was to go out there today, be assertive and put the serves in the corners, where we knew we needed to place them. It worked out well for us.”

Sigonella's Marley Mcelree tries to get the ball over Vicenza's Shalom Dejardin during Saturday's game at Vicenza. The Cougars won in straight games, 25-12, 25-12, 25-10.
Sigonella's Marley Mcelree tries to get the ball over Vicenza's Shalom Dejardin during Saturday's game at Vicenza. The Cougars won in straight games, 25-12, 25-12, 25-10. (Norman Llamas/Stars and Stripes)

The Jaguars remained motivated throughout the match and never gave up, despite whatever the scoreboard said.

Sigonella’s Angela Mykayla Abad, Fabiola Mercado-Rodriguez and Madison Wood played well and each had key plays that helped the Jaguars stay in the match.

Madison Wood of the Sigonella Jaguars attempts to return the ball over to the Vicenza Cougars side during Saturday's game at Vicenza High School. The Cougars won in straight games, 25-12, 25-12, 25-10.
Madison Wood of the Sigonella Jaguars attempts to return the ball over to the Vicenza Cougars side during Saturday's game at Vicenza High School. The Cougars won in straight games, 25-12, 25-12, 25-10. (Norman Llamas/Stars and Stripes)

“After not being able to play or even practice for the last year and a half, and basically having a complete turnover with the team, we’re learning as we play, and unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we do have to learn while playing a varsity match,” Sigonella coach Shawn McCarthy said.

Friday night, the Cougars started strong by decisively taking the first two games 25-16 and 25-10. The Jaguars fought back and after 25-16 and 25-20 set victories, the contest was tied.

Shawn McCarthy, the Sigonella girls volleyball coach, talks to his team during a time out Saturday in a match between Vicenza and the Jaguars. Vicenza won the match in straight games, 25-12, 25-12, 25-10.
Shawn McCarthy, the Sigonella girls volleyball coach, talks to his team during a time out Saturday in a match between Vicenza and the Jaguars. Vicenza won the match in straight games, 25-12, 25-12, 25-10. (Norman Llamas/Stars and Stripes)

The Cougars then pulled out the match 15-11.

“Friday night, we didn’t serve as well as we should have,” Kohut said. “We let our guard down and they took advantage of it.”

McCarthy believes his team will get better as the season progresses.

John Kohut, the Vicenza girls volleyball coach, talks to his team in between games Saturday. Vicenza won the match in straight games, 25-12, 25-12, 25-10.
John Kohut, the Vicenza girls volleyball coach, talks to his team in between games Saturday. Vicenza won the match in straight games, 25-12, 25-12, 25-10. (Norman Llamas/Stars and Stripes)

“Every touch of the ball, every play, is a chance for us to learn,” McCarthy said. “The challenge for a coach is to remain patient and wait for the results from coaching, the kids will do well in the end.”

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